Determined to stop people from texting while driving, the Obama administration plans a campaign similar to past government efforts to discourage drunk driving and encourage the use of seat belts. The administration offered recommendations to address the growing safety risk of distracted drivers, especially the use of mobile devices to send messages from behind the wheel. “We can really eliminate texting while driving. That should be our goal,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, declining to provide specifics of the recommendations. Researchers, safety groups, automakers and lawmakers have gathered to discuss the perils of distracted driving.
The Transportation Department reported that nearly 6,000 people were killed and a half-million were injured last year in automobile accidents as a result driver distraction, often by mobile devices and cell phones. LaHood called distracted driving a “menace to society” and said the administration would offer a series of recommendations to encourage Congress, state governments and the public to curb the unsafe behavior. A law has been proposed that would require states to ban texting or e-mailing while operating a moving vehicle or lose 25 percent of their annual federal highway funding. “No text message is so urgent that it’s worth dying over,” Klobuchar told participants.
The government reported that 5,870 people were killed and 515,000 were injured last year in crashes where at least one form of driver distraction was reported. Driver distraction was involved in 16 percent of all fatal crashes in 2008 and was prevalent among young drivers. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have passed laws making texting while driving illegal and seven states and the District have banned driving while talking on a handheld cell phone, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
“We started driving cars about 100 years ago. We started using phones about 80 years ago. We’ve only really combined those two activities to a great degree in the last five or 10 years. We’re finding out they don’t mix,” said David Teater of Spring Lake, Mich., whose 12-year-old son, Joe, was killed in a 2004 crash when a driver using a cell phone ran a red light. Some researchers cautioned that banning all cell phone use by drivers would undermine the development of safety technologies that could allow vehicles to share traffic information with other vehicles and alert emergency responders to crashes.
It has yet to be seen what laws may develop as it relates to texting/cell phone use and driving, but it’s always important to drive safely and be aware of your surroundings to avoid auto accidents. At The Injury Law Clinic, P.A. we help victims of car accidents everyday. If you or someone you know has been involved in an auto accident as a driver, passenger, pedestrian, bicyclist or other motorist, call today for a free consultation (877) 215-3LAW (3529).